THE LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST
A Sermon by Rev Grant R. Schnarr March 3, 1997
Our idea of God is the most important concept we can have. Our spiritual lives are based on this concept. Our spiritual destiny, including our home in the other world, is formed by our view of God. Every aspect of our eternal life revolves around our understanding and our relationship with our Maker.
Developing a true and working concept of God, though, can be a challenge. We bring our own conceptions and misconceptions to this image. Historically, humans have perverted or destroyed the picture of God over and over again, and have used a twisted understanding of God and His will to do many twisted things. The Spanish Inquisition, Hitler, and others claimed to worship the Lord, and performed hurtful deeds in the name of the Lord. People can make up their own God to suit their own bias rather than worship the true God.
Culture and the times can be biased against a true picture of God. For instance, God the judge might be popular at times, or the punisher, the warrior, or a remote and uncaring ruler. Or the opposite kind of God can be held up as an ideal: the ineffective, permissive, enabling, anything-goes God, weak and unable to lead or effect change in the world. The discussion of gender in relation to God is a good example of the struggle between cultural bias on every side of the issue and a struggle to understand revelation.
In the past history of the Christian Church, truth has certainly taken precedence over good. The Writings tell us that a faith-alone world developed, where good did not count for much, if anything. A natural outcome was that the world became perceived as a male’s world, and even as good was suppressed and put down as nothing, so were women treated the same. In a faith-alone culture, male attributes have been held up as an ideal, and it can be argued that even much of the feminist movement in the western world in the past quarter century has made the mistake of joining that illusion rather than dispersing it. This has caused deep wounds in many, and is not to be taken lightly or overlooked as an oddity. When love, perception, gentleness, and nurturing are looked upon as second-rate feelings, many of them to be shunned, those who excel in these areas receive the constant message that they are not good enough, that they do not count. From a truth-dominated culture a false concept of God is created, a static God firmly entrenched in a groundwork of rules seemingly unconnected to life. God becomes a judge whose favor limits the variety of the human race to those few who hold the correct set of ideas, and who punishes those who do not. God can seem to become a distant Father who is never home, or who arrives home on Sundays to lecture and scold, only to disappear again Monday morning. What would it be like to have nothing at all in common with this God and be told that this is the true God and that you must worship Him? Cultural bias affects not only our view of God, but our lives, and the wounds caused by false doctrines presenting false gods are real.
And so it is that the Heavenly Doctrines come into the world to bring back the balance between truth and good, to honor both sexes in their own right, and to offer everyone with an open mind a visible image of God in a Divinely Human form for what is actually the first time in religious history. (Read TCR 787 and following.) The Writings call upon society to rethink the entire picture of religion, the entire concept of God. They present a radically different concept where love and wisdom both reign in the Divine and in life. The Writings say “no” to a truth-alone world, and firmly present the marriage of truth and good in use as the essence of perfection (see DLW 28-33).
However, while acknowledging the wounds created by false doctrines of the past, how do we form a true picture of the Lord which reflects all of humanity without bias from past or present culture? How do we begin to heal the wounds that many have felt by cultural misconceptions of God, and at the same time not create more wounds by creating more misconceptions? We want to see God through our own eyes, but how do we do this without creating God with our own hands, in our own image?
Wounds heal over time, and there is no quick solution, but there are answers to all of life’s questions that can help heal. The Writings are called the leaves of the Tree of Life for the healing of the nations. Revelation from God is the source of healing if one will approach it and accept it. Revelation was given to guide us to an ever-growing understanding of the Lord. Revelation presents a picture of the Lord, a living picture, and through this window into eternity we can behold the face of our Creator and see our own face reflected therein.
What does revelation teach us? More than we can learn in a lifetime. Truth from the Word is infinite, but we can take a few principles and apply them to begin to build a healthy and genuine concept of God.
First, the Heavenly Doctrines teach us to look to our Maker from essence to person, and not from person to essence. This is an important teaching to help us approach our Maker. “Everyone who thinks of God from person only,” the Writings say, “and not essence is thinking materially. For instance, a person who thinks of the neighbor from the form only and not the quality is thinking materially . . . . Think of God from essence, and from that of His person, and do not think of His person and from that of His essence. For to think of His essence from person is to think materially of the essence also; but to think of His person from essence is to think spiritually of His person” (AR 611:7).
Thinking of God from person to essence is not helpful to us. Looking at the Lord’s material body from a corporeal point of view and translating that into the essence of God is not helpful. In modern terms, getting “hung up” on the physical form of the Lord while He was on earth, and allowing the physical form of the Lord to dictate how we think of the essence, is not helpful. An example of this would be statements that say the essence of God is male or female. That is thinking of God from person to essence. God is the I AM. While He is the origin of gender, God in essence is above gender. To attribute qualities of creation to the Uncreated is like calling the potter “clay.”
But that does not mean that all attributes of what we call humanity are not from the Divine. Of course they are, and that is why every human being, whether white, yellow, black, male, female, disadvantaged, disabled or healthy and whole can approach and be conjoined with the Lord.
But this is accomplished by approaching the Lord from essence to person. Through a recognition of the all-encompassing God, the all-loving, all-wise, ever-creating, ever-nurturing Force from whom all people and things come, we look to the Divine Human. We see these infinite and Divine qualities in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do this, we allow the invisible God to be visible, as the Writings say, in the air or on the sea with His arms opened inviting us into His embrace (see TCR 787). This is how conjunction with God takes place, through the visible, tangible, lovable, approachable Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in His Word.
But we are to worship Him as the Lord Jesus Christ and no other. To worship Divine attributes by any other name is to make God invisible. The Writings tell us: “As to His Divine Human the Lord is the Mediator, and no one can come to the Divine Being itself within the Lord, called the Father, except through the Son, that is, the Divine Human . . . . Thus the Lord as to His Divine Human is the actual joining together. And if people cannot do this in thought, how can they be joined to the Divine itself in love?” (AC 6804:4)
The Writings go on to say, “He was pleased to take upon Himself human form, and thus to allow people to approach Him . . . . It is this Human which is called the Son of God, and this it is which mediates. . . . This is why the Son of God, meaning the Human of God . . . is called the Savior, and on earth Jesus, which means salvation” (TCR 135:4).
And so the Lord said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known the Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:6-7).
The invisible soul of God is at once revealed and made manifest in His own Humanity, now revealed in His Word and proclaimed to us in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord God Jesus Christ.
Can we see the essence of God within His person? Can we allow God to be both Divine and Human? The image of the Divine Human is a blessing to those who long to understand and be conjoined with the Lord. A newcomer to the church once said, “When I was young I heard about God, the great and powerful Almighty. He clapped His hands, the thunders roared. He batted His eyes, the lightning flashed. Boom! God? God scared me. But when I read in the Writings that this gentle shepherd named Jesus, who called Himself a lamb, who held the children, healed the sick, and taught so many loving things, that this man was God, well, that did it for me.” The question might be asked, “What does it do for you?”
The image of the Lord Jesus Christ as it appears in the Gospels and as it is explained in the Heavenly Doctrines is given to the human race to bring conjunction with the Divine, the true Divine, and with that, healing. Although it is no doubt difficult for some, because of real abuse of false doctrines in the past, approaching this image as presented in the Word will bring healing. This image when viewed from essence to person can be infilled with a variety of descriptions from the Word, which represent every aspect of humanity. Jesus does bless the children, heal the sick, feed thousands of hungry mouths, cry for His people, and call each of us to arms of love and compassion. He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). He cries out to a church that has gone astray in faith alone. He says and listen to His words “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, `Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matt. 23:37-39).
Can we say these words? Can we see our Lord and Savior as all-encompassing, containing the source of all that is human and Divine? And can we worship Him as He has revealed Himself in His own Word? Then we will truly be able to see Him, and say with full hearts, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”
What is the essential message of the New Church? Is it that God is inaccessible to some people for no fault of their own? Is the message that if you have a hard time picturing God that you should give up and go somewhere else? The answer is “No!” Is the message of the New Church that anything goes you can make up your own God here, in any fashion you choose? The answer is “No!”
The message of the New Church is clear in the Writings, preached by the lips of the apostles themselves, and held as a hope for all people everywhere, from whatever background or origin, so that they may be conjoined with their Creator. This message is for everyone, to be infilled by every individual in a way that she or he must, in order to see and feel what it means to them. The message is that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, and His Kingdom shall be forever and ever. Blessed are they who come to the marriage supper of the Lamb (see TCR 791). The Lord promises us: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to everyone according to his work” (Rev. 22:12). May our response be with open hearts and minds, and with joyful lips: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
Lessons: Isaiah 42:1-9; John 14:1-11; AC 8705
8705. “And bring thou the words unto God.” That this signifies mediation and intercession is evident from the signification of “bringing the words unto God,” when said of the Divine truth, as being to mediate with the Divine Itself and to intercede, for he who mediates and intercedes brings the matters to Him who gives aid. Mediation and intercession are of the Divine truth, because this is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord Himself. That the Divine truth is nearest with the Divine good, which is the Lord, is because it proceeds immediately from Him. As the occasion offers, it shall here be told how the case is with the Lord’s mediation and intercession. They who believe that there are three Persons who constitute the Divine and who together are called one God, from the sense of the letter of the Word have no other idea of mediation and intercession than that the Lord sits at the right hand of His Father, and speaks with Him as man with man, and brings the supplications of men to the Father, and entreats that for His sake, because He suffered the cross for the human race, He may pardon them and have mercy. Such is the idea of intercession and mediation which every simple person has from the sense of the letter of the Word.
But be it known that the sense of the letter is according to the apprehension of simple men, in order that they may be introduced into interior truths themselves; for the simple cannot have any other idea of the heavenly kingdom than as of an earthly kingdom, nor any other idea of the Father than as of a king on the earth, and of the Lord than as of the son of a king who is the heir of the kingdom. That the simple have such an idea is plainly evident from the idea of the Lord’s apostles themselves about His kingdom; for at first they believed, like the rest of the Jews, that the Lord as the Messiah would be the greatest king upon the earth, and would raise them to a height of glory above all the nations and peoples on the whole globe. But when they heard from the Lord Himself that His kingdom is not on earth but in heaven, then neither could they think otherwise than that His kingdom in heaven is altogether like a kingdom on the earth. And therefore James and John asked that in His kingdom the one might sit on His right hand and the other on His left; and the rest of the apostles, who also wanted to become great in that kingdom, had indignation, and disputed among themselves which of them should be greatest there. And as such an idea cleaved to them and could not be rooted out, the Lord indeed said unto them that they should “sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (see Mark x. 37, 41; Luke xxii. 24, 30; Matt. xix. 28); but they did not then know what the Lord meant by the “twelve thrones,” and by the “twelve tribes,” and by “judgment.”
From all this it can now be seen what the idea is, and whence it is, concerning the Lord’s mediation and intercession with the Father. But he who knows the interior things of the Word has a totally different notion about the Lord’s mediation and His intercession, namely, that He does not intercede as a son with a royal father on earth, but as the Lord of the universe with Himself, and as God of Himself, for the Father and He are not two, but are one, as He Himself teaches (John xiv. 811). He is called “Mediator” and “Intercessor,” because by “the Son” is meant the Divine truth, and by “the Father” the Divine good (see n. 2803, 2813, 3704), and mediation is effected through the Divine truth, because by means of it access is given to the Divine good; for the Divine good cannot be approached, because it is like the fire of the sun, but the Divine truth, because it is like the light therefrom, which gives to man’s sight, which is of faith, passage and access (n. 8644) . . . .
When the Lord was in the world, and before He was fully glorified, He was the Divine truth; wherefore at that time there was mediation, and He interceded with the Father, that is, with the Divine good itself (John xiv. 16, 17; xvii. 9, 15, 17). But after He was glorified as to the Human, He is called “Mediator and Intercession” for this reason, that no one can think of the Divine Itself unless he presents to himself the idea of a Divine Man; still less can any one be conjoined through love with the Divine Itself except by means of such an idea. If any one without the idea of a Divine Man thinks of the Divine Itself, he thinks indeterminately, and an indeterminate idea is no idea; or he conceives an idea of the Divine from the visible universe without an end, or with an end in obscurity, which idea conjoins itself with the idea of the worshipers of nature, and also falls into nature, and thus becomes no idea. From this it is evident that there would not be any conjunction with the Divine through faith, nor through love . . . .
Nevertheless, what is remarkable, all who think from themselves or from the flesh about God, think of Him indeterminately, that is without any determinate idea; whereas they who think of God not from themselves, nor from the flesh, but from the spirit, think about Him determinately, that is, they present to themselves an idea of the Divine under a human form. So the angels in heaven think of the Divine, and so the wise ancients thought, to whom also, when the Divine Itself appeared, it appeared as a Divine Man; for the Divine passing though heaven is a Divine Man. The reason is that heaven is a Grand Man, as has been shown at the end of many chapters. From all this it is evident of what sort are the intelligent of the world, and of what sort are the intelligent of heaven; namely, that the intelligent of the world remove from themselves the idea of the human; and consequently between their minds and the Divine there is no mediation, whence they have thick darkness whereas the intelligent of heaven have an idea of the Divine in the Human; thus the Lord is to them mediation, and consequently in their minds there is light.